Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Critically thinking about the four Noble Truths

So I am continuing on a wild existential quest to determine what place Buddhism has in my life. I know I have been rocking the Dharma Boat for some time now so please forgive me if you find my thoughts and words unhelpful. Thank you for bearing with me.

In this post I will try to explore the very foundation of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths.


  1. Dissatisfaction is inherent in life. This is obviously true but just as obviously incomplete. There is also plenty of satisfaction and joy that comes from a great number of sources, for example, friendships, learning something new or experiencing something beautiful. It seems to me that by emphasizing some aspects of life and de-emphasizing others, Buddhism expresses a mere preference. We can just as well say that the Ocean is full of ice which, while being factually true, skews our view of the Ocean from its more tropical regions or even just plain summer time towards Polar regions and Winter.

I suspect that this fundamental viewing of the glass as half-empty, made a lot of sense in ancient India, in light of the horrendous socio-economic conditions of the day. Yet, I really question how well this negative-biased view serves me in the place and time that I am actually in.

In fact, I have found comfort in the First Noble Truth because of some psychological issues that hinder me from fully engaging with the world. I used it as a way to normalize my difficulties as opposed to trying to solve them. Instead of working towards a happier life, I lulled myself into a kind of sleep by telling myself that life is basically sad and there is not much to be done about that. While I see such embrace of suffering as a useful temporary coping mechanism, I suspect that viewing the entire life in terms of suffering is not the best way for me to be.

The key question here is: why not maximize joy rather than minimize suffering? Wouldn't framing one's direction in the former way yield a more optimistic and positive direction?


  1. Dissatisfaction is caused by craving which is rooted in ignorance about nature of reality. In a simpler language this can be rephrased as the problem is inside you so you need to change your attitude, as opposed to making demands for things or of people. This is very often true indeed. By examining my challenges calmly and logically I have indeed often realized that my feelings about them are off base and found a better way of relating to them. In fact, a part of growing up seems to be seeing, over and over again, that what we instinctively want is not always what we actually need.

The pitfall here that I have fallen into, is to declare that actually, I do not need anything at all, that whenever I have any type of longing, it is a delusion rather than a valid sign that I am lacking something. The effort and energy then goes into de facto trying to make oneself not want, often ignoring a more direct and expedient way to go about the particular want. Take the two most basic wants that every Eastern spiritual tradition is at least somewhat suspicious of: sex and money.

For several years, under the influence of Eastern (not Buddhist) spirituality I took celibacy for my personal ideal. I am not going to go into the insane frustration and cycles of self blame I experienced as a 20 year old holy man wannabe. Let me just say that from those miserable years I came to a firm conclusion that sex is a basic psychological and physical need. The most expedient way of alleviating the suffering caused by it not being met is actually engaging in sexual activity (responsibly)- not meditating on it with the implied goal of seeing it as a delusion. And yet armed with Second Noble Truth, it is easy to deny one's basic biology as an impurity and instead live with significant and unnecessary frustration, which often can hurt more people than one's discretely and mindfully indulging their appetite (ideally in a committed long term relationship).

Similarly with money, here in America, if you don't have it, you end up living on the street. Looking at homeless people or those who subsist paycheck to paycheck living on minimum wage, I cannot help but think that pursuit of some measure of financial security is necessary for one's well being. For all intents and purposes, the sacrifice made for one's career, is, while often times grueling, significantly better than the alternative. Once again, instead of just admitting that more money is needed and acting accordingy, the inward focus of the Second Noble Truth may incline one to passively bear with suffering caused by insufficient funds, be it having inadequate diet, living in a bad neighborhood or lacking of quality leisure.


  1. There is an end to dissatisfaction. It does stand to reason that by living one's life a certain way, it can be made much happier. By applying various tidbits of wisdom, many coming from a Buddhist context, I have learned some skills that are making a marked and positive difference.

I have found that the implication in this Truth that can be problematic is that of some perfect state of being free of suffering. Of course, Buddhists have a name for it, "Nirvana". In Mahayana circles they also talk about lofty realms and beings, which are then incorporated into the worldview. One issue with this is the same as with any supernatural religious belief: the requirement to suspend one's rationality and, once suspended, open oneself to more unfounded dogma and cede control to religious authority.

The other issue with Nirvana, Pure Land etc is more subtle. These idealized notions give us an impossible yardstick to measure our lives against. We and our experiences always fall short of that yardstick. When I would become preoccupied with these higher realms, I would find myself departing from what actually is, appreciating it less and hungry for what I believe is ultimately impossible.


  1. The Path to end dissatisfaction. In itself, the 8-fold path is a great teaching on proper self discipline and ethics. All of the eight folds are found in different forms in many schools of thought that humanity has to offer. Pay attention to what you say or do, take time to reflect, do not hurt others etc- are features of all systems of ethics and self cultivation, to some extent. There is nothing uniquely Buddhist there.

Of course, when we say "right X" or "right Y", which is what the Eight Fold Path is, the question is always about what "right" actually means. In other words, this is very open to interpretation. For example, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_Eightfold_Path , describes one interpretation that points to renouncing the self and "the world"- clearly not applicable to me or most modern people.


In writing this I am not trying to say that Buddhism is all wrong. I am only exploring how it appears in light of open questioning stemming from Western realities today. What is relevant and what should be let go of is really the point I want to get at. Thank you for reading, and may this help you to either strengthen your existing path or find one more in line with who you are.

CarlitalobsterKerome

Comments

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited December 2017

    the raft is relevant. But there is nothing to let go of, because it all falls away on its own.
    You just have to let it.

    karasti
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited December 2017

    Your musings are interesting, but flawed.
    I don't have either the time, or the precise mind-set needed to counter-discuss each point, save to say that somewhere along the line, you have misunderstood things and interpreted them in ways which demonstrate that.

    Others I'm sure will chime in.
    In the meantime, keep musing.....

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    When referring to suffering Buddhism makes a further distinction between various levels of suffering.
    1)Suffering of suffering. Which is the normal type of pain and loss anyone can recognize.
    2)Suffering of change. Which is how the things that bring us ordinary pleasure and happiness are conditional (in that they won't increasingly and consistently provide happiness) and they are impermanent. In effect too much of a good thing.
    3)All pervasive suffering. Which is either a subtle form of existential suffering or the added layer we impose on painful situations with our own mental ruminations.

    So basically I think you're only thinking about and refuting the first notion of suffering which in that case I think I generally agree with you. But since Buddhism is also getting at something deeper I think you miss the boat on those deeper implications in Buddhism.

    Also keep in mind that Buddhism was preserved and passed on by monastics who can devote more of their time and energy to practice. So in letting go of and getting past everyday pains and, yes, the very real pleasures of life a dedicated practice can get one to a deeper level of happiness that isn't dependent on external conditions. So it isn't about seeing the ice or the clear water of the ocean it is about dropping well below the surface to a greater type of spiritual happiness below.

    I think for most lay people while living a modern life that sort of peace and happiness may be largely out of reach so a path more akin to one you kind of lay out may be more appropriate but it doesn't mean the deeper aspects don't exist.

    shadowleaverShoshinpaulysoSnakeskin
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited December 2017

    @jwredel;

    Nagarjuna said that suffering does not exist by itself , not that it does not exist. It is conditional and then so is its cessation. His teachings did not run counter to Buddha I don't think.

    jwredellobsterSocair
  • jwredeljwredel Albuquerque Veteran
    edited December 2017

    @David said:
    Nagarjuna said that suffering does not exist by itself , not that it does not exist. It is conditional and then so is its cessation. His teachings did not run counter to Buddha I don't think.

    @David Excellent, excellent! Yes, I stand corrected. Nagarjuna would say the suffering exists but that it has no intrinsic characteristics - that it is empty.

  • Thank you for the well thought out response, @person !

    @person said:
    When referring to suffering Buddhism makes a further distinction between various levels of suffering.
    1)Suffering of suffering. Which is the normal type of pain and loss anyone can recognize.

    That is more like "pain" rather than suffering. Some Buddhist teachers, including mine, actually make that distinction and even say that some amount of pain is inevitable. Buddhist practice clearly does not do much for it, except if one adopts the supernatural dogma of rebirth so one can believe that in the next life/Nirvana pain will be gone.

    2)Suffering of change. Which is how the things that bring us ordinary pleasure and happiness are conditional (in that they won't increasingly and consistently provide happiness) and they are impermanent. In effect too much of a good thing.

    I am very well aware of the "life is unsatisfactory because all must pass" stance that you are stating here. It is actually this level of suffering and its place in Buddhist teaching that most drew me into Buddhism. Yet what I wrote still applies: instead of merely contemplating that all things we cherish will be wiped away by change, why stop there? This acceptance is important and is indeed expected of all adults, yes. However, would it not be a stronger position to actively plan for the change by looking for things and experiences that will replace or supplement that which is waning?

    I think oftentimes, Buddhism encourages excessive passivity and fatalism in the face of change- it did in me. Methinks embracing and adapting to change is the more complete way.

    3)All pervasive suffering. Which is either a subtle form of existential suffering or the added layer we impose on painful situations with our own mental ruminations.

    This (ruminations and unnecessary stories we tell ourselves) is indeed something that some Buddhist practices, namely meditation and helping others (Mahayana's Boddhisatva ideal), can help with. I think this is where Buddhism indeed shines. I don't know if it is the best way but I do see great value here.

    So basically I think you're only thinking about and refuting the first notion of suffering which in that case I think I generally agree with you. But since Buddhism is also getting at something deeper I think you miss the boat on those deeper implications in Buddhism.

    Also keep in mind that Buddhism was preserved and passed on by monastics who can devote more of their time and energy to practice. So in letting go of and getting past everyday pains and, yes, the very real pleasures of life a dedicated practice can get one to a deeper level of happiness that isn't dependent on external conditions. So it isn't about seeing the ice or the clear water of the ocean it is about dropping well below the surface to a greater type of spiritual happiness below.

    Beautiful analogy about going below the surface! This sort of points to the concept of non-duality. In my Zen practice I got a few Koans "right" and that is what it felt like. And yet, for some reason, this is just an interpretation that does not follow from the 4NT.

    I think for most lay people while living a modern life that sort of peace and happiness may be largely out of reach so a path more akin to one you kind of lay out may be more appropriate but it doesn't mean the deeper aspects don't exist.

    I can't say much about those deeper sorts of peace and happiness. But through my community I came across three monks. Two of them disrobed: one to have a family (loves his kids like crazy, it seems) and the other to pursue a path that involves psychoactive substances like Ayuhasca or mushrooms. The two disrobed monks had very intensive practices they had been at for many years. This does not say much definitively but points to the fact that some people either do not find perfect happiness in monkhood or find more perfect happiness elsewhere.

    Snakeskin
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    Sorry @jwredel , I didn't even mean to post that. Nagarjuna is so misunderstood and causes so many arguments that I meant to disregard the post.

    All I really wanted to add was to ask @shadowleaver to try to look at the "Right" 8 Fold Path as the "Harmonious" 8 Fold Path and see if it resonates a bit better.

    shadowleaverSnakeskin
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @shadowleaver said:

    2)Suffering of change. Which is how the things that bring us ordinary pleasure and happiness are conditional (in that they won't increasingly and consistently provide happiness) and they are impermanent. In effect too much of a good thing.

    I am very well aware of the "life is unsatisfactory because all must pass" stance that you are stating here. It is actually this level of suffering and its place in Buddhist teaching that most drew me into Buddhism. Yet what I wrote still applies: instead of merely contemplating that all things we cherish will be wiped away by change, why stop there? This acceptance is important and is indeed expected of all adults, yes.

    I think oftentimes, Buddhism encourages excessive passivity and fatalism in the face of change- it did in me. Methinks embracing and adapting to change is the more complete way.

    It's more than just all things must pass. It's also that things that we see as bringing us happiness are "lesser" or tainted in some way when compared to inner peace and "spiritual" happiness. Or that if something that brings happiness was a true source of happiness rather than a conditional change then more of it should bring greater and greater levels of happiness instead of changing over to suffering.

    However, would it not be a stronger position to actively plan for the change by looking for things and experiences that will replace or supplement that which is waning?

    This thought has occurred to me many times over the years but I've come to the opposite conclusion. It struck me as a constant and unreliable struggle that never lasts, the image that always comes to mind is like trying to balance a large rock on the end of a stick you're holding on to. Maybe with effort you can get it to stay for a moment but in no time it will fall off again. The stronger position to me has been to search for that deeper happiness that I think Buddhism points to.

    shadowleaverSocairSnakeskin
  • why not maximize joy rather than minimize suffering?

    Go for it. B)

    @shadowleaver said:
    In this post I will try to explore the very foundation of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths.

    Buddha. Path. In Way. Kill.
    http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/670

    Snakeskin
  • I think dissatisfaction is inherent in life mean more on the lines that things are only temporary and transient (as has been mentioned somewhat similarly above). Meaning you can experience happiness but it is only a passing experience.
    It doesn't mean happiness is not experienced in relation to these things.
    One thing though is happiness starts with yourself and isn't so much something you chase. I can kind of get the half empty thing though so to rephrase what is said there I would say the potential for happiness is already in yourself. Also I guess there were several kinds of things described in relation to suffering.

    You also reminded me of Max-min principal Rawls political philosophy about maximising happiness and minimising suffering not that I promote that as such either just reminded me XP.

    I don't think sex is a need as such, not to say it is bad at all more that it isn't something people need to survive or live. When people feel like they need these things strongly it is usually to do with emotional issues. There are other ways to express the self such as creativity and while it can be a good thing it is not really a need at all.

    Snakeskinshadowleaver
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Yeah, monks seem to on the whole, be ok with abstinence and celibacy. No emotional issues or hang-ups there. A layperson has no such restrictions, and self-imposed celibacy is both unnecessary and unrequired.

    Snakeskin
  • @lobster said:

    why not maximize joy rather than minimize suffering?

    Go for it. B)

    @shadowleaver said:
    In this post I will try to explore the very foundation of Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths.

    Buddha. Path. In Way. Kill.
    http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/670

    Ha, this attitude is what originally attracted me to Zen. I have plenty of questions about Zen as well but one thing that is certain is that it does not let get one caught in theories and turns them on their head. Like this discourse on 4NT I started here would probably not even take off in Zen circles.

    Snakeskin
  • @federica said:
    Yeah, monks seem to on the whole, be ok with abstinence and celibacy. No emotional issues or hang-ups there. A layperson has no such restrictions, and self-imposed celibacy is both unnecessary and unrequired.

    I realize that by replying to a post about sex I risk hijacking my own thread but I feel that this is somewhat important. Sex is the most basic expression of Life itself and my questioning of 4NT is essentially that they seem to devalue all life experiences by focusing on their impermanence and imperfect-ness.

    Anyway, I strongly suspect that the notion of no-issues celibate "spiritual" folks is largely religious fiction. From numerous Eastern teachers in the West embroiled in sex scandals to well documented issues with Catholic clergy, I think there is ample evidence that celibacy as a whole just does not work.

    Some may say that those examples point to the West's warped view of sex and that "true" Buddhists are different. Maybe some Buddhists are but lately I have been running across reports of routine sex abuse in Tibetan monasteries in Asia: https://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/06/what-lies-beneath-the-robes-are-buddhist-monasteries-suitable-places-for-children-adele-wilde-blavatsky/ , for instance. My friend from the Sangha who was married to an ex-Nun who lived in an Asian monastery also shared stories about ever present sexual tension that resulted in rather unenlightened behaviors.

    I do not want to make this about sex, just pointing to the fact that any idealized view of human nature, such as can be read from foundational Buddhist teaching, runs into serious issues when applied to real life.

    SnakeskinlobstersilverKerome
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @shadowleaver said:

    @federica said:
    Yeah, monks seem to on the whole, be ok with abstinence and celibacy. No emotional issues or hang-ups there. A layperson has no such restrictions, and self-imposed celibacy is both unnecessary and unrequired.

    I realize that by replying to a post about sex I risk hijacking my own thread but I feel that this is somewhat important. Sex is the most basic expression of Life itself and my questioning of 4NT is essentially that they seem to devalue all life experiences by focusing on their impermanence and imperfect-ness.

    Not sure what you mean, here. Are you implying celibacy is unnecessary, because by focusing on it, they actually bring it to the fore of their attention?

    Anyway, I strongly suspect that the notion of no-issues celibate "spiritual" folks is largely religious fiction. From numerous Eastern teachers in the West embroiled in sex scandals to well documented issues with Catholic clergy, I think there is ample evidence that celibacy as a whole just does not work.

    Bullshit. Of course it works. When you compare the sheer number of devoted celibates to those who can't keep it in their robes, the celibates, by sheer numbers, win hands-down. If you'll pardon the metaphor.

    Some may say that those examples point to the West's warped view of sex and that "true" Buddhists are different. Maybe some Buddhists are but lately I have been running across reports of routine sex abuse in Tibetan monasteries in Asia: [SNIP] My friend from the Sangha who was married to an ex-Nun who lived in an Asian monastery also shared stories about ever present sexual tension that resulted in rather unenlightened behaviors.

    One monastery. Have you checked on all Monasteries for a decent comparison?
    If there is sexual tension, then they're not doing it right, are they?
    I on the other hand, being an ex-catholic, was closely involved with the ministry and organisation of our local church, and associated the convent and monastery nearby.
    I can promise you that over a period of 20 years, there wasn't so much as any hint or insinuation of any problem or discussion regarding celibacy.
    I think by highlighting a few cases, you do a great disservice to the majority-dedicated ordained monks - of any calling.
    The Ex-nun obviously couldn't cut the mustard, eh?

    I do not want to make this about sex, just pointing to the fact that any idealized view of human nature, such as can be read from foundational Buddhist teaching, runs into serious issues when applied to real life.

    No, ~you~ make the issues. If you accept the situation and renounce sex voluntarily, your attachment and craving for sex are mind-wrought, and YOUR problem. Not 'society's' or 'real life'.

    (Please note: In the above response, I use the term 'you' and 'your' in a completely generic sense, not a personal one.)

    What do you mean by 'real life' mean, anyway? Are you suggesting a life of devoted ministry isn't 'real life? It is to the ordained...!

    Snakeskin
  • CarameltailCarameltail UK Explorer
    edited December 2017

    I don't think there is any basis to claim sex as is normally described that it is a basic expression of life apart from the fact it is physically needed for continuation of species, for example not all animals or plants even sexually reproduce. (although it is mysterious how so many species developed it)
    Unless you want to define sex as, if you mean to include everything that involves interrelating and mixing with people and things perhaps... but that is quite different.

    There are many examples of people who are celibate based on choice such people who spend much time alone on their works for example or philosophical pursuits and such. I don't think it's good to force yourself to be celibate though against will though that is when scandals and such happen it's really about choice. And I think sexuality is good when healthy.

    Maybe need another thread to talk about these things?

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    I can say for myself that I've been able to reduce my sexual cravings over the years. The mind in general seems pretty pliable with effort and also allows a wide range of experiences and states of being.

    If teachings are only taken as rules to be followed, such as celibacy, and not seen as conditions to help train the mind to form different habits then there would be an unending struggle to resist ones current emotions.

    The Buddha did give different teachings to lay disciples than he did to renunciates so there probably is something to the idea of practicing and applying things differently while living in the world ("real life") than while living in retreat. But that doesn't mean that certain understandings are wrong simply because they aren't what you need at that time to progress along the path.

  • I do not mean to be provocative but just trying to look at available evidence with an open mind, @federica . I realize that what I say may hurt those who are invested in spiritual traditions but I firmly believe that not saying this does much more hurt to a much greater number of people.

    I will briefly comment on the part of your reply that comes from your personal experience and which I trust to be true.

    @federica said:

    I on the other hand, being an ex-catholic, was closely involved with the ministry and organisation of our local church, and associated the convent and monastery nearby.
    I can promise you that over a period of 20 years, there wasn't so much as any hint or insinuation of any problem or discussion regarding celibacy.

    Basically all you are saying is that nobody talked about sex issues and nobody knew about such. That is not surprising because people in general do not discuss sex, especially in environments where it is deemed inappropriate. Never underestimate our ability to present a convincing public face.

    This reminds me of being a teenager in high school. I held many of my teachers in high regard and used to wonder how would it be possible for them to be engaged in any hanky-panky. I knew most did because most had kids but it was such a curious disconnect in my head: how can this respected person do that at home?

    Regarding Catholics, my other side of the family has a priest in a very Catholic country. Through that connection I heard stories of priests having whole families on the side. The guy himself had a Playboy collection. My wife grew up in the Church and is now quite skeptical about Catholic celibacy. Sure, another piece of anecdotal evidence, but only strengthens my theory that celibacy is not what it seems.

    I think by highlighting a few cases, you do a great disservice to the majority-dedicated ordained monks - of any calling.
    The Ex-nun obviously couldn't cut the mustard, eh?

    I think one important piece of the puzzle is that women, on average, are much better at controlling physical aspects of sexual desire than men. Not only that, but their natural age window of sexual interest is narrower than mens'- men do not have menopause. I therefore am willing to trust nuns much more than monks when it comes to celibacy.

    Also, I am not saying that celibacy is impossible. For one, there is a non-negligent number of asexual or demi-sexual folks (it is curious, look it up), not to mention that some do have stronger impulse control than others. But what I am saying is that all evidence available to me shows that any large scale application of celibacy is wrought with problems.

    silver
  • @person said:
    I can say for myself that I've been able to reduce my sexual cravings over the years. The mind in general seems pretty pliable with effort and also allows a wide range of experiences and states of being.

    Wholeheartedly agree that mind is pliable and that we have a lot of control over what to do with our sex drives. Any mature person should certainly be able to delay gratification as well as direct it appropriately. That is kind of the definition of what it means to be civilized, isn't it?

    But I was not talking about delaying or directing- I was talking about denying altogether. Much of Buddhism is passed down to us by monastics where denying was the requirement (even though phrasing like letting go of or seeing it clearly for what it is would most likely be used, that is semantics that does not change the end result).

    Also, regarding the "over the years" part, I am also less sex crazed now in my late 30's than when I was 16. I can now sometimes go for weeks without sex ever appearing on my mind in any urgent manner. My sense is that as a function of biology, our sex drives diminish naturally with age. I don't know how much I can really credit meditation or spiritual teachings here, and how much of it is just our animal biology doing its thing.

  • shadowleavershadowleaver Veteran
    edited December 2017

    @Carameltail said:

    Maybe need another thread to talk about these things?

    Yeah, you are right, it does not belong in this thread. I have said all I had to say about sex and celibacy. Sex wasn't the point of this thread at all, I was tempted to throw more stuff in by @federica 's reply. I shall now cease and desist in this subject :)

  • @shadowleaver said:
    Like this discourse on 4NT I started here would probably not even take off in Zen circles.

    So why are we so inflicted? Try a new zen forum ... maybe something improbable will happen :expressionless:
    https://www.zen1.space

    It seems there is:

    • The NT of joy in impermanence
    • The causes of joy
    • The Way to joy
    • 8 methods to be joyful ...
    shadowleaver
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    Buddhism also talks about god realms. If we take it psychologically rather than literally, I think it goes against the idea of chasing happiness as the answer to life.

    I guess I've been able to taste some of the deep type of peace and happiness that comes via long practice and meditation retreats and my experience of it is that it is far superior to most kinds of worldly happiness. The only thing that kind of comes close is a close, loving connection with another, but it's less conditional and less fleeting.

    In studying the effects of meditation on long term meditators they looked at an area of the brain associated with feelings of well being and happiness and Mattieu Ricard showed activation there several times higher than not just the average but several times higher than any other result they've ever seen.

    I watch Netflix, I eat ice cream and look forward to spending time with my family. These things make me happy. But they have downsides, we get used to them and need more to achieve the same rewards and we become dependent on them so if they're not there we suffer. Chasing after external sources of happiness like this is known as the hedonic treadmill/. Instead of chasing highs we can dive deep and increase our base happiness set point.

    lobsternakazcid
  • Appreciate the thoughtful and to the point responses, @person ! I feel like I want to clarify where I am coming from with all my recent doubting.

    I have been to many retreats and have been a regular meditator for over 10 years, 7 of them as a part of a community. I have tasted that deeper happiness you are talking about, as a result of these practices. Seeing everything as coming and going (a major point of Buddhist insight) does at times provide an unexpected and wonderful stability and calm. A wider view of interdependence of all beings helped me experience more compassion and at times actually act on it.

    I guess what I am doing here is trying to point out that Buddhism in general and the 4NT in particular are prone to being interpreted as world- and self- denying, discouraging many important expressions of our psychologies. I guess my gripe is partially really with myself, as to some extent I used Buddhism to justify certain passivity and stasis in my own life. Fatalism and pessimism that can be gleaned from many Buddhist sources have not always helped me with being all that I can be. I have been exposed to Buddhist circles quite a bit and believe that I am not alone.

    To be clear, I still value my time invested into studying and practicing Buddhism. However, I feel that we need to pick and choose in order to arrive at a synthesis that better fits our time and place. I feel that without some creative reinterpreting of the dogma based on our time and place, we are at the risk of being left with just one more calcified ancient religion. Classical Buddhism by itself is a valuable tool and addition to my life but I feel that it alone cannot serve as an end all/be all.

    lobsterperson
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    It seems to me you've firmly made your mind up. So take a break, see if the grass is greener on the other side because it's true for you, or if it's greener because it's fertilized with bullshit. Only you can make the decision for you.

    Socairshadowleaverkarastinakazcid
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    The key question here is: why not maximize joy rather than minimize suffering? Wouldn't framing one's direction in the former way yield a more optimistic and positive direction?

    @shadowleaver it would seem you are finding some aspects of the Buddha Dharma 'unsatisfactory" .....

    ( Um could this be that the First Noble Truth has rear its unsatisfactory head ...The elephant in the room so to speak (....of the obvious :) "There is Dukkha" .....(Unsatisfactoriness) ..... one can't argue with that...Dukkha in it subtlest form :)

    Having doubt is a very important lesson in itself ...

    "Great Faith and Great Doubt are two ends of a spiritual walking stick. We grip one end with the grasp given to us by our Great Determination. We poke into the underbrush in the dark on our spiritual journey. This act is real spiritual practice -- gripping the Faith end and poking ahead with the Doubt end of the stick. If we have no Faith, we have no Doubt. If we have no Determination, we never pick up the stick in the first place."

    ~Sensei Sevan Ross~

    May you find what it is you are looking for :) (If you actually know what it is you're looking for)

    lobstershadowleaverSocair
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    @shadowleaver said:

    I guess what I am doing here is trying to point out that Buddhism in general and the 4NT in particular are prone to being interpreted as world- and self- denying, discouraging many important expressions of our psychologies.

    The way you presented that makes it sound like you know it to be a false assessment so I don't really understand the problem as it relates to your own practice.

    I guess my gripe is partially really with myself, as to some extent I used Buddhism to justify certain passivity and stasis in my own life. Fatalism and pessimism that can be gleaned from many Buddhist sources have not always helped me with being all that I can be. I have been exposed to Buddhist circles quite a bit and believe that I am not alone.

    Those trying to deny the self outright are often more concerned about personal responsibility and the lack thereof than improving our outlook on the world and our self. I think though that if compassion doesn't make logical sense in light of the dharma then there is a problem somewhere.

    To be clear, I still value my time invested into studying and practicing Buddhism. However, I feel that we need to pick and choose in order to arrive at a synthesis that better fits our time and place. I feel that without some creative reinterpreting of the dogma based on our time and place, we are at the risk of being left with just one more calcified ancient religion. Classical Buddhism by itself is a valuable tool and addition to my life but I feel that it alone cannot serve as an end all/be all.

    This post is confusing a little bit because it sounds like you know what the problem is and how it can be fixed but you'd give up because it can be confusing for the newcomer.

    The terms can be confusing for sure and sometimes the dharma could be interpreted as nihilistic if taken out of context but if we know that, it is easy to remedy, right?

    Emptiness does not mean nothing, the Ultimate truth is better understood as objective over absolute, we exist only in relation to everything else and the 1st Noble Truth does not negate the 3rd and 4th.

    I've probably missed a few but you see where I'm going. If you're not happy with the dogma, challenge it with your own understanding.

    Am I off the mark here?

    shadowleaver
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @shadowleaver said:
    Appreciate the thoughtful and to the point responses, @person ! I feel like I want to clarify where I am coming from with all my recent doubting.

    I have been to many retreats and have been a regular meditator for over 10 years, 7 of them as a part of a community. I have tasted that deeper happiness you are talking about, as a result of these practices. Seeing everything as coming and going (a major point of Buddhist insight) does at times provide an unexpected and wonderful stability and calm. A wider view of interdependence of all beings helped me experience more compassion and at times actually act on it.

    I guess what I am doing here is trying to point out that Buddhism in general and the 4NT in particular are prone to being interpreted as world- and self- denying, discouraging many important expressions of our psychologies. I guess my gripe is partially really with myself, as to some extent I used Buddhism to justify certain passivity and stasis in my own life. Fatalism and pessimism that can be gleaned from many Buddhist sources have not always helped me with being all that I can be. I have been exposed to Buddhist circles quite a bit and believe that I am not alone.

    To be clear, I still value my time invested into studying and practicing Buddhism. However, I feel that we need to pick and choose in order to arrive at a synthesis that better fits our time and place. I feel that without some creative reinterpreting of the dogma based on our time and place, we are at the risk of being left with just one more calcified ancient religion. Classical Buddhism by itself is a valuable tool and addition to my life but I feel that it alone cannot serve as an end all/be all.

    I too feel that much of Buddhism does need to be interpreted and understood to better serve the modern person and world. After spending most of my Buddhist life learning from more traditional sources I slowly came to realize that it just didn't agree with me anymore, it was kind of like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. So now I'm practicing at a western center with a full time, long practicing western teacher. And even though I am pretty lost as to where my practice is on this different map I feel like my progress has taken big steps forward.

    I think that when making different interpretations than traditional ones it's important to not go too far and lose the important points to make it fit our dispositions better. It's okay to be human and not follow the path perfectly while still moving forward. I still consider myself a serious Buddhist even though I love Game of Thrones and Ben and Jerry's.

    lobstershadowleaverSocairKerome
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    I still consider myself a serious Buddhist ...

    :anguished: Ay caramba! You ain't joking ... O.o

    I try not to consider myself ... too much of a dukkha joke ... :p

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited January 1

    A rich and long thread, let me respond to the OP first...

    (With the first noble truth) The key question here is: why not maximize joy rather than minimize suffering? Wouldn't framing one's direction in the former way yield a more optimistic and positive direction?

    For a long time I had similar thoughts to you @shadowleaver. Then one day i was reading No Mud, No Lotus by Thich Nhat Hanh, in which he explains that suffering and happiness are linked, and that when suffering disappears happiness starts to arise. If you just maximise joy, you turn into a hedonist who avoids or fails to address suffering, and thus does not see and cope with the whole picture.

    The pitfall (with the second noble truth) that I have fallen into, is to declare that actually, I do not need anything at all, that whenever I have any type of longing, it is a delusion rather than a valid sign that I am lacking something.

    The path I have tried to follow recently is to allow my longings to just be, to act on them with what wisdom I could muster without feeding them to become full-fledged cravings. I try to live life fully but humbly and simply, my desires limited by the fact that i give them little time in my mind, preferring to think of and feed other things. This way I keep my desires small.

    (The third noble truth states) There is an end to dissatisfaction. It does stand to reason that by living one's life a certain way, it can be made much happier.

    The only end to dissatisfaction that I have found is the solution of not clinging. You still have desires, you still feel dhukha, but by always being ready to let go you can avoid the “second arrow” of letting things persist in your thoughts.

    That means spending time practicing letting go of your attachments. It means thinking about what it would mean to lose a family member, or cherished possessions, much like a monk may practice letting go of the body by doing a charnel ground meditation.

    (According to the fourth noble truth there is) The Path to end dissatisfaction. In itself, the 8-fold path is a great teaching on proper self discipline and ethics. All of the eight folds are found in different forms in many schools of thought that humanity has to offer.

    I find the 8FP has much of value in it. It shows how the different facets of life support each other, it shows how basic rules of behaviour support living together, it focuses you on practice. But it sets you more on the road to an ultimate goal than that it truly embodies that goal.

    On the whole I do not think about Nirvana or the ultimate destination very much. I think there is still a long way to go in this life, this mind, this body, this death.

    Socairlobsterpersonnakazcid
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @shadowleaver said:

    I realize that by replying to a post about sex I risk hijacking my own thread but I feel that this is somewhat important. Sex is the most basic expression of Life itself and my questioning of 4NT is essentially that they seem to devalue all life experiences by focusing on their impermanence and imperfect-ness.

    Anyway, I strongly suspect that the notion of no-issues celibate "spiritual" folks is largely religious fiction. From numerous Eastern teachers in the West embroiled in sex scandals to well documented issues with Catholic clergy, I think there is ample evidence that celibacy as a whole just does not work.

    I feel the issue of sex is one area where Buddhist monastics have bowed to the habit of avoiding temptation by removing it from the board. They say they’re going to live the holy life, to focus on finding the cessation of suffering without any distractions, and sex causes strong attachments and is the ultimate distraction, so why allow it a foothold?

    But without including it in your holy life can you truly say you have achieved life at all? There are types of suffering and happiness, essential parts of the natural human life experience, which they have just avoided. It seems like a shortcut to a partial success.

    Luckily as a lay student of Buddhism we can have the middle road, a loving family life and also the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha.

    shadowleaver
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @Kerome said:
    ... Luckily as a lay student of Buddhism we can have the middle road, a loving family life and also the Buddha, the dharma and the sangha.

    Yes, I think it was HHDL who said something along the lines of how difficult it was to compare the ordained life to that of a layperson, because both have their challenges. The fact we subscribe to the first 5/8 Precepts (originally scribed for the Sangha Community), bears witness to this.
    (In principle, there are 10 precepts for the ordained community. However, There are in total, 227 Precepts for monks and an additional 24 for nuns....I like this link, particularly the first paragraph. Interesting.)
    Sex seems to be an important factor for both the lay community and the Monks/nuns. Chiefly, we have to be considerate and not be unskilful, inappropriate or harmful. They have to bypass the whole process altogether.

    image

    It's always struck me as odd though (as a somewhat tangential stream of thought) that, considering how we all got here, we are so hung up and peculiar about sex. I mean, without it, we wouldn't be here. Yet it feeds so much angst. Some are prudish, some are open and forthright, yet we all came out the same way we went in.

    Just bizarre....

    Ok, I'm done.

    lobstershadowleaver
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited January 1

    @federica said:

    @Kerome said:
    ... Luckily as a lay student of Buddhism we can have the middle road

    It's always struck me as odd though (as a somewhat tangential stream of thought) that, considering how we all got here, we are so hung up and peculiar about sex. I mean, without it, we wouldn't be here. Yet it feeds so much angst. Some are prudish, some are open and forthright, yet we all came out the same way we went in.

    This has been a theme in my thinking recently also. It’s one reason why I contrast this so much in my mind with the Osho communes — there was much more an atmosphere of free love there, marriage was just about banned, work was cast as worship for part of the day to keep the community going, but it was still a spiritual place where almost everybody meditated and Osho’s own words and his commentaries on the Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu and Hakim Sanai intermingled and flowed freely. It was a different kind of religious community born out of the hippie movement, with an art style, great cleanliness, and togetherness.

    Osho’s commentaries on ‘the other’ in a relationship and marriage are very revealing, they talk very much against objectification and traditional roles, and more about love, and how not to stay in a relationship after love is gone, but just letting the other go their own way.

    It makes sense to me for sex and spirituality to peacefully co-exist. Sex is probably the most powerful human urge, that procreative drive without which the species could not continue. Without it any religion is doomed. So it is odd that so much spirituality almost seems at war with the sexual, from Christian and Buddhist monks to the brahmachariya of India’s later guru’s to Islam’s treatment of women.

    It is also a truth that in the ancient world solitude and the abstinence from sex seemed to be a mark of a holy man. It may very well be a viral historical meme which got copied into all of these different traditions under different rationalisations.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @person said:
    Buddhism also talks about god realms. If we take it psychologically rather than literally, I think it goes against the idea of chasing happiness as the answer to life.

    The idea of the realm of Brahma, with the Four Immeasurable Minds of loving-kindness, compassion, empathetic joy, and equanimity to take us there, always seemed a little far-fetched although it is a useful teaching about the seeds of positive thinking in the mind.

    In studying the effects of meditation on long term meditators they looked at an area of the brain associated with feelings of well being and happiness and Mattieu Ricard showed activation there several times higher than not just the average but several times higher than any other result they've ever seen.

    I’ve read about this study, and other studies on the minds of monks who meditate a lot, and what it appears to show is that meditation rewires the brain for greater emotional stability, happiness and stress resistance. Significant effects seem to show up after about six months.

    I don’t doubt that the N8FP also has an effect - greater ethical behaviour allows you to feel better about yourself, and the path also includes items on mindfulness and concentration. If you were to follow those it probably has similar effects to meditating.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited January 1

    @Kerome, I think given - as you rightly say - that sex is probably the most powerful urge, it's not so much the sexual act that is abstained from, but the urge itself.
    I don't think religion is at war with the sexual; God commands, in Genesis 1:28, that Adam and Eve 'Go forth and multiply'; The Koran (30:21) states that marriage and sexual connection is sacred; and Hindus believe that kama (sensual pleasure) is one of the four purusharthas or 'aims of life'.
    I think sexual abstinence therefore, in religious circles actually has nothing to do with sex itself. Conquering the Will, and mastering self-control, is the mark of an ascetic who is above such temptations.
    The sublimation of women (in many religions, not just Islam), and their degradation and reduction in society, is a whole different ball-game, and I can't really address the topic in the same vein. (Off topic, really. :) )

    dhammachick
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    Dissatisfaction is inherent in life.

    Buddhism teaches that dissatisfaction is inherent in life, not that all life is dissatisfaction. There's a difference!

    The key question here is: why not maximize joy rather than minimize suffering?

    It already is about maximizing joy. =)

    "There is, O monks, worldly joy, there is unworldly joy, and there is a still greater unworldly joy.

    "Now, O monks, what is worldly joy? There are these five cords of sense desire...that are wished for and desired, agreeable and endearing, associated with sense-desire

    "Now what is unworldly joy? Quite secluded from sense desires, secluded from unwholesome states of mind, a monk enters upon and abides in the first meditative absorption...the second meditative absorption...and has joy and happiness born of concentration. This is called 'unworldly joy.'

    "And what is the still greater unworldly joy? When a taint-free monk looks upon his mind that is freed of greed, freed of hatred, freed of delusion, then there arises joy. This called a 'still greater unworldly joy.'

    Why aim for the lowest form of joy when you can aim for the highest? If you really want to maximize joy, you should aim for the maximum kind. Buddhism aims for the maximum kind of joy there is. =)

    1. Dissatisfaction is caused by craving which is rooted in ignorance about nature of reality. In a simpler language this can be rephrased as the problem is inside you so you need to change your attitude, as opposed to making demands for things or of people.

    That's not really an accurate representation because Buddhism does not say don't demand anything. If your neighbor is beating their kids, you should demand they stop. It says don't demand things that are unrealistic. For example, you can demand to not get old and die until you are blue in the face. However, that won't do you any good because that will happen no matter what you demand.

    1. here is an end to dissatisfaction. One issue with this is the same as with any supernatural religious belief: the requirement to suspend one's rationality and, once suspended, open oneself to more unfounded dogma and cede control to religious authority.

    It doesn't require the suspension of one's rationality, it requires keeping an open mind and requires not jumping to conclusions with one's rationality. It does require testing the teachings for yourself by actually putting them into practice, as advised, rather than just thinking about them and drawing conclusion from that thinking. "Saddha" or Buddhist faith is based on rationality. However, it's a rationality that arises from your own personal experiences in testing the teaching for yourself by actually putting them into practice, as advised.

    The Path to end dissatisfaction. There is nothing uniquely Buddhist there.

    There is something uniquely Buddhist there. The actual meditation practices contained are uniquely Buddhist as they were invented by the Buddha. Meditation itself is not uniquely Buddhist but Buddhist style of meditation is uniquely Buddhist.

    person
  • Happy New Year, all, and thank you for honoring my questions with responses!

    I am happy to see that some of you actually questioned original Buddhist teaching along the lines similar to what I expressed. And then arrived to interpretations that are more in line with your life's circumstances.

    That is precisely what I feel I need to do to keep Buddhist wisdom alive- digest it in my heart, mind and body to make it work for me and those around me. In my group I also feel that some are actively trying to synthesize the Buddhist way as well (and it is those members that have kept me coming back rather than the more "orthodox" ones).

    It is uncertain what will come from that project. It might even be that the outcome will not even be called "Buddhism" anymore. I really don't know.

    But be that as it may, I was looking for a religion in my early twenties and Buddhism seemed to be closest to what I needed. Therefore, I am very grateful for the many wonderful people I have come across in the Buddhist world, including those here on newbuddhist.com.

    lobsterperson
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    You don't adapt Buddhism to you; you adapt yourself to Buddhism.
    It doesn't change according to your whims. As you say, it may come to the point where what you pursue is not even Buddhism any more. But if you do choose to follow Buddhism, you work according to its principles, not the other way round.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited January 1

    Umm @federica ... which kind of Buddhism would you say you adapt yourself to? ;)

    Even more, I would say that the mere fact that so many different streams of Buddhism exist proves that many people have been adapting Buddhism to themselves for many ages. Secular Buddhism is just the latest in a long series.

    Although it’s true that there is a difference between choosing a stream and mixing and matching your own variation we all do a little mixing and matching. To take all the precepts or not, to eat meat or not, to practice every day or not.

    lobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I for one consider I practise every day; I may eat meat but it's not universally forbidden, and I take the precepts every day.
    Your final paragraph is really the mode of thinking I was alluding to though, as opposed to the content of the first....

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    @shadowleaver We all do a bit of that, just be cautious not to stray into refusing to acknowledge valid, core parts of Buddhism because they "don't work" for you. You practice Buddhism, Buddhism doesn't practice you. The whole point is to change ourselves to better understand where we fit into life, and we all do a lot of introspective work to figure out how Buddhism works for us. But sometimes, we push stuff aside rather than investigate our reaction to it. Even things you think you've landed on a solid conclusion - perhaps especially those things - should be routinely investigated and kept in mind, never completely shoved into the closet of "Nope, not for me."

    Keromeshadowleaverlobsterperson
  • Ha, curious how things work!

    This morning got into the car to drive home and turned on NPR. They just happened to have a conversation with Jack Kornfield on. He was sharing a vision that is rather positive and quite embracing of human-ness. Talked about love a lot (the subject of my previous troublemaking post) too.

    I really hope that the seeds of wisdom found in numerous spiritual traditions find their way to blossom in as many lives as possible and that we collectively find a way to wisely distinguish between those seeds and cultural/religious trappings they are contained in. I still feel that Buddhism is the best source of inspiration for that work, of all religious traditions I know about.

    lobster
  • techietechie India Veteran
    edited January 4

    Just a thought on the matter of sexual impulse. It is a complicated matter.

    On the one hand, it's a biological urge. Basic. Part of who we are. Can it really be compared to craving? For example, craving for expensive cars, latest gadgets etc. But the sexual urge comes from within, like it or not. So perhaps we should distinguish between impulse (innate, biological) and craving (extrinsic, imposed from outside).

    This means that sexual impulse is no big deal. But the thing is, spiritual people say that even though it's biological and innate, still it has to be controlled because the very control of sexual urge will lead to greater bliss. So basically they are saying we must do the impossible.

    So we have two paths before us. Treat this impulse as something natural, innate, do nothing, and life will go on as always. Or fight, suppress, transcend, so that the urge could become something else entirely.

    Who is right, who wrong? No one knows.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @techie said:
    Just a thought on the matter of sexual impulse. It is a complicated matter.

    On the one hand, it's a biological urge. Basic. Part of who we are. Can it really be compared to craving? For example, craving for expensive cars, latest gadgets etc. But the sexual urge comes from within, like it or not. So perhaps we should distinguish between impulse (innate, biological) and craving (extrinsic, imposed from outside).

    No, because both are mind-wrought and stem from greed/desire.

    This means that sexual impulse is no big deal. But the thing is, spiritual people say that even though it's biological and innate, still it has to be controlled because the very control of sexual urge will lead to greater bliss. So basically they are saying we must do the impossible.

    No, it's not impossible at all. You can only say that if you've actually tried it and failed.
    Presumably, you never have.

    So we have two paths before us. Treat this impulse as something natural, innate, do nothing, and life will go on as always. Or fight, suppress, transcend, so that the urge could become something else entirely.

    There is no fight or suppression. There is acceptance and overcoming.
    It's not as much of a struggle as you have led yourself to believe.
    But guys do have a different sex drive to women. That fella, is a biological fact.

    Who is right, who wrong? No one knows.

    I know you are right in some ways, wrong in others.
    As is everyone else.

  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran
    edited January 4

    @techie said:
    Just a thought on the matter of sexual impulse. It is a complicated matter.

    On the one hand, it's a biological urge. Basic. Part of who we are. Can it really be compared to craving? For example, craving for expensive cars, latest gadgets etc. But the sexual urge comes from within, like it or not. So perhaps we should distinguish between impulse (innate, biological) and craving (extrinsic, imposed from outside).

    This means that sexual impulse is no big deal. But the thing is, spiritual people say that even though it's biological and innate, still it has to be controlled because the very control of sexual urge will lead to greater bliss. So basically they are saying we must do the impossible.

    That's only a superficial reason though. The big reason is because of its function in biology. Sex is how we reproduce and it can be used to show affection and get more intimate but we have turned it into a drug and use it as a means to control. Children born into the latter circumstances inherit a handicap in the social department in many cases.

    So we have two paths before us. Treat this impulse as something natural, innate, do nothing, and life will go on as always. Or fight, suppress, transcend, so that the urge could become something else entirely.

    Who is right, who wrong? No one knows.

    We could always just try to be more responsible towards life as a species. In my eyes, that would be the middle way in all of this.

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    You will find, as you practice Buddhism over the years/decades, that your understanding of what Buddha said and meant will change. Will deepen. Will evolve.

    Don't try to "pin it down" with critical thinking, because as soon as we believe we have defined something, THAT is when we stop being open to more learning. Often, our attempt to "make sense" out of something is a form of attachment to the idea of thinking that we understand what existence is all about ... the basic essential existential angst of mankind.

    Life contains both joy and suffering. While some degree of suffering is unavoidable, we humans are able to block out joy. But as we become increasingly open to mindfulness, our awareness and acceptance of both increase ... yet push us less and less.

    One thing the older monks exhibit is a sense of amusement about life, including the inevitable suffering and the inevitable joy. Even when sitting on the podium, teaching despite being in the end-stages of pancreatic cancer. These older monks do not cling to suffering, but neither do they cling to joy. They relax into both.

    shadowleaverpersonlobsterDavid
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited January 7

    @seeker242 said:
    Buddhism teaches that dissatisfaction is inherent in life, not that all life is dissatisfaction. There's a difference!

    It depends which texts you read:

    "The world in general, Kaccaayana, grasps after systems and is imprisoned by dogmas.[5] But he[6] does not go along with that system-grasping, that mental obstinacy and dogmatic bias, does not grasp at it, does not affirm: 'This is my self.'[7] He knows without doubt or hesitation that whatever arises is merely dukkha[8] that what passes away is merely dukkha and such knowledge is his own, not depending on anyone else. This, Kaccaayana, is what constitutes right view."
    https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn12/sn12.015.wlsh.html

    Note 8 for this sutta: "The usual translation "suffering," always a makeshift, is inappropriate here. Dukkha in Buddhist usage refers to the inherent unsatisfactoriness and general insecurity of all conditioned existence."
    I think "conditioned existence" here could be interpreted as "unenlightened experience".

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:
    It depends which texts you read:

    Sure! And also depends on how those texts are interpreted. =) If all life was suffering, then enlightened life would be suffering too. But of course, that can't be true. =)

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited January 8

    @seeker242 said:
    Sure! And also depends on how those texts are interpreted. =) If all life was suffering, then enlightened life would be suffering too. But of course, that can't be true.

    That's why I suggested talking about unenlightened experience as being unsatisfactory,
    Either way I don't think this is something that can be understood or resolved intellectually, it requires paying close attention to experience, noticing how feelings arise dependent on circumstances and conditions, then noticing when craving and aversion arise, etc. Noticing transience, conditionality, emptiness, and so on.

Sign In or Register to comment.